“I am not in a position to provide her with a clear answer..”

The transcript of yesterday’s events in the Assembly is now online here. Among the various questions to the minister probably the most interesting one, in terms of the points made and the answer given, is this from the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long

Mrs Long: I thank the Minister for Social Development for her statement. I am pleased that she has shown a degree of integrity that was lacking in that area under direct rule. Given that the programme was brought in under direct rule, has the Minister received any assurance from the Northern Ireland Office that those who have, for so long, lectured local representatives to get on with the job for which they were elected, will now respect the Minister’s decision, having made the choice for which she was elected, and will desist from further interfering in the matter?

Ms Ritchie: I thank Mrs Long, a Member for East Belfast, for her support and for her question. However, I very much regret that I am not in a position to provide her with a clear answer. I hope that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Minister Goggins will support me in my decision — and support me publicly — and ensure that any side briefing is stopped.

I want to clear up two things. First, for the benefit of ministerial colleagues and Sinn Féin Assembly Members, I will not be funding the UDA now or in the future. Secondly, for the benefit of my DUP Assembly colleagues, my decision has an entirely robust legal basis. The Departmental Solicitor’s Office has observed that I am behaving entirely legally.

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